The annual national Heritage Open Days kicks off on 8 September and lasts until the 17th. This is the time when you’re invited to explore your area’s hidden secrets, take a look behind doors that are normally closed to the public, and be as nosey as you like.
Across the county there is a cornucopia of delights just waiting for you to explore. Some of the open doors are predictably of historical interest but there are quite a few surprises.
The county school station
North Elmham, current population 1,428, is opening its doors on 17 September to what’s described as a ‘hidden gem’: the county school station. Here you can chat to the volunteer stationmaster. Explore parts of the station that aren’t normally accessible and learn more about the people who made a living from the railway and discover the delights of the Wensum Valley miniature railway.
Norwich Bishop’s House Garden
This stunning oasis, situated next door to the cathedral, is a hidden treasure. The garden opens a few times a year to raise funds for charity and will be accessible to the public on the 12–13 September. Admire the kitchen garden, buy some plants, if on sale, and have a chat with the gardeners about the maintenance of this beautiful space. Rumour has it that there are some hallucinogenic plants growing among the hostas and other plants, so probably best to steer clear of these.
Situated on the river Wensum and close to the cathedral, Pull’s Ferry was the original water gate for the cathedral and played a vital role during its construction – stone from Caen, was transported from the river, through the gate, to the cathedral. Explore the charming medieval Watergate room, admire the views or just take a moment to absorb the atmosphere.
Again, in Norwich, Thornes is something of a local institution. It’s described as a hardware shop but it’s so much more, every nook and cranny is crammed to the gills with objects that you didn’t know you needed until you’re standing in front of them. Added to these delights, should you venture upstairs and make your way past the ladders, there are three stunning and surprising wall paintings believed to date back to 1835. This shop really does cater for all tastes.
St Benet’s Abbey
The ruins of this beautiful and remote site on the broads promote a feeling of other worldliness. You can imagine that the monks are still in residence and enjoy an hour or two in their company. Should you wish to listen to a guide and learn more about this magical space, it’s best to visit on Saturdays 9 or 16 September, or Wednesday 13. The tour starts at 14:00, and you’ll be able to learn more about the abbey’s flint architecture.
To discover which events are taking place in your part of the county there’s a wonderful alphabetical guide online. Paper pamphlets are available at The Forum in Norwich. Most of the events are free but you may be asked to reserve your place through Eventbrite. Talking to one of the volunteers, she implored that if you find you can’t attend, please cancel your place, otherwise you’ll be depriving someone else of their chance to explore Norfolk’s secrets.
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